As human beings, our lives are shaped and influenced by a myriad of factors, and relationships is at the top of the list. Think about how much of “who you are today” was influenced by a specific parent, sibling, relative, teacher, coach, neighbor, author, speaker, boss, co-worker, spouse or friend. Values, habits, behavior, knowledge, skills, passions, hobbies, tastes and attitudes are typically learned through association with others.
Yet, as influential as relationships are, most people haven’t consciously chosen their greatest “circle of influence”. Fortunately or unfortunately, some people are born automatically in our lives. Some come through marriages. Geography plays a role. Where you work and what you do for a living is a factor. Even friendships develop through circumstances. Through this consortium is a variety of individuals that make up our “circle of influence”. Some are negative, others simply neutral by-standers, and often we are blessed with enriching associations that positively impact our lives.
Years ago at a Jim Rohn seminar, I heard this statement.
“We become the combined average of the FIVE people we associate with most.”
Look at your own life and see how true this statement is. The five people you associate with most likely reflect your bank account, health, career choices, self-esteem, habits (good and bad), interests, quality of conversation, values and goals. When you compare yourself to them, are you setting the standard, keeping the status quo or the pulling the average down? Do you LOVE spending time with the people in your life or do tolerate the experience? Or is it somewhere in between?
At the time, I took inventory in my own life and wrote down the names of the individuals I was spending the most time with. Then, I asked the hard question, “What are the people in my life doing to me?”
People are either pulling you up, pulling you down, or keeping you comfortably in neutral.
For me back then, I realized that “upgrading” my circle of influence was in my best interest. I made a list of 10 people that I would like to spend more time with, and made the conscious decision to spend more time with those individuals I admired, respected and wanted to be most like. Simultaneously, I limited or eliminated my time with those who weren’t really adding much to my life aside from companionship, gossiping and partying it up.
It’s fun to look back and see that several of the people I admired and respected most, have indeed become good friends that now consider me their equal.
More than the conscious decision to go “friend” or “mentor” hunting is the AWARENESS about your circle of influence. Just being present to the impact someone has on your state of being is powerful.
Check in with your own life. Who are the five people you associate with most? Who are the ten people you associate with most? Write it down. For simplicity, determine which of the following categories describe those in your circle of influence. While everyone can dance in each of these modes at time, notice which one or two are the overriding.
1. Energy Draining – These are the people who deplete or drain your energy. They complain, whine, criticize, blame, use sarcasm, condemn, gossip and otherwise focus on the bleaker view of life. They are pessimistic. When you spend time with them, you notice the heaviness of their presence, and instantly feel better when you walk away. These people may be coming to you with their stories and challenges, seeking your support and input. These people aren’t about bringing you joy and happiness, or adding anything but a dark perspective on life.
SUGGESTIONS: I personally like to limit my time with people who fall in this category. However, these people are great mirrors for embracing your shadow or dark side. Byron Katie’s work on “Loving What Is” is particularly useful here.
QUESTION: What if my family is Energy Draining? I encourage everyone to love your family members for who they are to the very best of your ability. And, again Katie’s work on “Loving What Is” is useful. While you may consciously choose to limit your time with them, learning to love them unconditionally is often the greater gift with these individuals.
2. Energy Comforting – These people are likely your friends, peers or possibly family members. They are a lot like you, and share similar values and interests. You enjoy being with them, and feel better by being around them. We all love having people in our lives that bring comfort, acknowledgment, sharing and understanding.
The pitfall or trap to beware of here is the word “comfort”. This group is likely to keep you anchored to bad habits, disempowering stories and limiting beliefs that may hold you back. Part of how you relate with each other may be through sharing similar problems and challenges. The relationship may feel less engaging without a problem to discuss or solve, so problems continue to emerge and cycle. If one of you leaps too far ahead, the relationship may be threatened. While you may share dreams and goals with each other, there is a tendency to stay “comfortable” with no one moving too far ahead. Keeping the status quo is the name of the game.
SUGGESTIONS: Enjoy and cultivate these relationships. Become more aware of relating through sharing problems and stories. Focus more on sharing what you desire and appreciate in life.”
3. Energy Empowering – This group of people may also be your friends, but there is a distinct difference as their impact challenges you beyond your “comfort zone”. This group may include mentors, authors, leaders, business associates or those deemed wildly successful. This group sets the example of what you aspire to emulate. They may have a life that you admire, respect or are striving for. They are an example of possibility to you. They inspire, empower, lead and challenge you to grow. They may believe more in you than you do in yourself, and encourage you to live your highest potential. These people aren’t always the “easiest” to be around because their nature demands the best from you. While challenging, these relationships fulfill the need you have to evolve, accelerating growth, success and fulfillment. Their presence is so potent, that even short time periods are often very influential.
SUGGESTIONS: Consciously seek out more of these individuals out and spend time with them. Ask them questions. Pay attention to their habits, values, beliefs and state of being. See yourself as their peer. Look for ways that you can contribute value to them.
The next step is to write down the 5-10 people you admire, respect and value most. Maybe they are an acquaintance or someone you recently met. There may already people in your life that meet the “Energy Empowering” criteria, but you’d enjoy spending more time with them. It doesn’t matter how well you know them or not right now. If your list is short, you may want to commit to expanding your circle of influence and “upgrading” as I did years ago.
It all begins by simply being aware of how people are positively, negatively or neutrally affecting you. This is enough to allow you to make new conscious choices.
While I’ve continue to expand my associations through the years, I periodically check in with this potent exercise. I am also quick to notice the Energy Drains in my life, a limit my associations. Fortunately, through the years of intention, I am wildly blessed with an abundance of associations that I truly admire and respect. In recent years, spending time with all of the people I enjoy is the greater challenge. But, that’s a quality problem I’d wish on anyone.